Volume 5, Number 12, Summer 1976
The early settlers of the Ozark Mountain region were a most independent breed of people. The great majority of them came from the Blue Ridge and Great Smokey country. They brought with them to the Ozarks, that fierce love of freedom and independent action that marked the early history of our nation.
Those of us who had the rare privilege of living among these wonderful people and learning from them, should count ourselves most fortunate indeed. We who have turned sixty-five years, can surely say that we have lived in two distinct and different generations. Memories of childhood bring back scenes that have long since vanished from the countryside.
We who have gone a long way on the journey toward the setting sun can look back down the trail we have traveled and in our minds eye see the campfires of the freighters. We see the great herds of cattle being driven to the railroad over country roads and hear the crack of the drivers blacksnake whip. We hear the ring of the blacksmiths hammer on the anvil, and the chorus of school bells ringing out over the hills from scores of rural schools.
We recall the pioneer people we have known and the wonderful lessons in thrift, self-reliance, bravery, patriotism, and reverence they taught.
One of the strong traits of the early hill people was standing up for his rights and against all odds. A man would defend his rights with his bare fists or with a Winchester Rifle, if it became necessary. This strong spirit of independence led to some fierce encounters and some of them with fatal results.
A disputed right-of-way between an old pioneer and one of the early tourists in the Ozarks ended without serious results. The old man won out. The first bridge across Long Creek in southwest Taney county was a high, three-span, one-way structure. The first traveler on the bridge had the right-of-way and any other traveler waited his turn to cross the bridge. This rule was adherred to by all the local people.
One summer day Uncle Andy was crossing the bridge on his old mule, with a sack of corn across the mules back, behind the saddle. A tourist who knew nothing of the local custom, pulled up behind the mule, demanding the right-of-way. Mary Elizabeth Mahnkey, who witnessed the scene from the front porch of the country store, caught the spirit of the disputed right-of-way in a poem...
Theres a twickety-twock on the bridge.
Uncle Andy is coming to mill
On the old gray mule, so steady and true,
From over yan side of the hill.
The old gray mule lays back his ears
At the sound of a motor horn,
And a rich powerful car whines down to a creek
Trailing the mule and the corn.
Serene, undismayed, Uncle Andy rides on,
Secure in his right-of-way.
"Let em toot, let em cuss,
Im furst on the bridge,
An Im goin to mill today."
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
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